For all the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth after BYU lost two early West Coast Conference road games by a combined 41 points and was crushed at home by No. 4 Gonzaga a week ago, the Cougars have recovered quite nicely in the league where the only real race is for second place.
BYU stayed alone in second on Thursday night, three games behind the first-place Zags, by routing Portland 83-48 at Chiles Center for its seventh straight win over the Pilots.
Yoeli Childs registered his 13th double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds and TJ Haws added 22 as the Cougars improved to 7-3 in the WCC, 15-10 overall.
Portland dropped to 0-10 and 7-18 in losing its 11th straight game and posted a season-low scoring total. The Cougars are now 20-2 all-time against the Pilots, coached by former NBA great Terry Porter.
The Cougars have had some letdowns after building big first-half leads, but not on this night. They took a 40-21 halftime lead and stretched it to 30 before Portland made a field goal in the second half.
Zac Seljaas added 12 points and was 2 of 4 from the 3-point range
Nick Emery made his first start since March 15, 2017, replacing freshman Connor Harding in the starting lineup, and hit a big 3-pointer in the first half to get his confidence going. He finished with eight points, five assists and four rebounds.
“Confidence is such a fragile thing. It comes and goes. Right now, I think that Nick’s confidence is really good,” coach Dave Rose told the BYU sports radio network before the game. “He played great the other night, gave us the energy that we really needed, and showed some real leadership qualities.”
Gavin Baxter made his second start, and first since posting career highs of 25 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s 67-49 win over LMU. He had five points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes.
“He had a tremendous response to his first start the other night,” said Rose, who predicted that Baxter would have a hard time duplicating his performance last week because now there’s plenty of film out on the Cougars’ promising freshman.
It took BYU almost three minutes to score, but after Haws’ 3-pointer on the Cougars’ sixth possession, Portland never had the lead again. Haws scored 12 of his points in the first half.
A 9-0 run pushed BYU’s lead to 32-18 with three minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the first half. After a Portland 3-pointer, the Cougars finished the first half on an 8-0 run and carried that momentum into the second half.
The Cougars scored 18 points off 12 Portland turnovers in the first half in which neither team got into the bonus at the free-throw line. It was the fewest points BYU has allowed in any half this season.
Childs had 10 points and nine rebounds in the first half. Earlier Thursday, the junior became one of 10 finalists for the Karl Malone Award, given annually to the top power forward in college basketball.
The Cougars improved to 13-1 when leading at halftime.
BYU returns to the Marriott Center on Saturday to host Pacific at 7 p.m.